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LGBT activists urge boycott of Winter Olympics due to Russia’s anti-gay laws

Sunday, June 23, 2013

MOSCOW — “A rainbow pin on your coat or hat could get you arrested,” says Polina Savchenko, a prominent Russian LGBT activist who warns against the display of anything related to gay pride at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Savchenko is one of several LGBT activists who say Russia’s repressive atmosphere has been emboldened by a recent onslaught of anti-gay laws that thousands of Olympic athletes, supporters, and fans will face when attending the Winter Olympics, and are urging a boycott of the games.

Activists point to an increasingly hostile stance on LGBT issues by both the powerful Russian Orthodox Church and the adversarial policies by the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and say the International Olympic Committee — the governing body of the games — is not going far enough to ensure the protection of the LGBT Olympians.

At issue is a bill that stigmatizes Russia’s LGBT community and bans the distribution of “homosexual propaganda.” The measure was approved by the Russian Parliament in a 436-0 vote earlier this month and is scheduled to pass through a final reading this week. Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated he will sign it into law immediately.

The bill would make public events and dissemination of information about the LGBT community punishable by arrest and fines of up to $16,000. Similar laws already exist in St. Petersburg and nine other Russian Oblasts (regions).

The IOC says it has a “long commitment to non-discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games,” and that “all orientations will be welcome at the Games,” but activists say those ideals are not shared by the Russian community, and are urging a boycott of the Winter Games.

“LGBT people in Russia are scared, they live in fear, and we want people to be aware of this issue. If they feel strongly about human rights they should boycott the Olympics in Sochi,” said Nina Long, co-president of RUSA LGBT, a Russian-speaking LGBT organization based in New York.

“We really want the LGBT community to know it’s unsafe to travel there,” she said.

Last week, New York-based Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental human rights advocacy organization, stepped into the fray and demanded the IOC issue its own public statement and communicate directly with the Russian authorities about the government’s human rights and Olympic commitments.

“We encourage you to obtain guarantees from the Russian authorities that no homophobic legislation will be adopted or implemented and that the authorities will refrain from any additional discriminatory legislative initiatives or policies that discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender people,” wrote Boris O. Dittrich, Advocacy Director for HRW’s LGBT Rights program, in a letter to the IOC.

“We also urge you to press the authorities to state publicly that, as Olympic Host, Russia will ensure, without distinction, the safety and the freedom of expression and association of all athletes, coaches, fans, and others who will attend the Sochi Games.”

In 2012, the Russian government said it would ban Olympic committee from having a “Pride House” for LGBT athletes, although similar Pride Houses were at the 2010 winter games in Vancouver, and the 2012 summer games in London.

Boris Nemtsov, a former Russian deputy prime minister-turned-Kremlin critic, said he does not foresee any changes in the official Russian attitude toward the LGBT community, but said he doubts that strict “enforcement” of the expected “homosexual Propaganda” law would occur at the Games in the face of almost certain outcry and denouncement by the international community.

Still, he cautioned, the Putin government likely will not tolerate any protests or displays of conduct that would violate Russian law, hinting that those would did so may find themselves being expelled as undesirable from the country.

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25 more reader comments:


    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 5:59pm
  2. Best way I can think of to get the message to them. The world coming to them for the Olympics at the very time when they are waging war against their LGBT citizens would only be taken as encouragement. AND BOYCOTT RUSSIAN VODKA!

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 6:01pm
  3. I support.

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 6:02pm
  4. No. Do you remember, either personally r from history class, the Olympics held in Nazi Germany? There were calls for a boycott then too, over their racist attitudes towards blacks. We got the iconic image of Jesse Owens, fist raised in triumph – over his fellow racers AND over the racist ideas of the Third Reich.

    We need to do that again.

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 6:05pm
  5. dont boycott , show the LGBT youth of Russia that the world is with them , send all the gay athlete the countries have , with there countries flags walk the opining ceremonies have the rainbow flag with them

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 6:11pm
  6. well what country would you pose as AMERICA is just as BAD if not worse….IDIOTS

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 6:28pm
  7. Wow, there are a lot of Republicans that would love the new Russia. Russia kind of sounds like the Dixie South in the area of equality and diversity. They both really suck.

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 6:54pm
  8. what we need is a gay athlete carrying a rainbow flag in the parade of nations!

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 7:20pm
  9. I won’t be watching.

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 7:50pm
  10. I say lets Boycott the fucking Olympics because if we do not that says our Country don’t give a fuck about us in the LGBTQ Communitys here in this Country and the World****and what Does Russa get?? NO Fucking $$$$$$$$$ :)

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 7:52pm
  11. if Obama’s committed, then he’ll do it.

    Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 10:22pm
  12. As WE Do Too ! Lets show Putin’s Vile Regime that he can’t continue to Brutally abuse our LGBT Brothers & Sisters ! ;o)

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 12:49am
  13. It’s time to pull a Jesse Owens, ok?

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 2:37pm
  14. not boycotting not attenting not watching either so its a win win i guess but how i see it is the olympics are really a show off contest and a rather boring one at that

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 2:42pm
  15. Not going to boycott it. It’s not the gay Olympics. Smh. We must show that we are better than failed boycotts.

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 2:51pm
  16. Oh, yes, it’s not the gay Olympics, it’s the regular people Olympics, so, of course they should be able to arrest people for openly being- or even mentioning- gay anything. The gay Olympians can have their own separate, but equal, competition to promote peace and goodwill among the nations.

    Heavy on the sarcasm, there, folks, if it didn’t come across as such. We SHOULD be saying this attitude and behavior is acceptable anywhere, especially at the Olympics. We should be saying that we don’t accept or acknowledge that a country with such direct hateful law would house such an event. We should not be saying “oh, no, it’s fine, it’s not for gays, anyway.”

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 3:47pm
  17. I have a major issue with the Olympics still being in Russia after the legislation that has passed. I won’t be watching anything.

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 3:50pm
  18. The Russian Olympics have been boycotted before…so let’s see what happens this time..

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 4:03pm
  19. How can we protest? Is there an electronic petition that we can sign and pass around?

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 4:11pm
  20. I won’t be supporting or watching anything!!!

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 4:29pm
  21. Can you guys take 10 seconds and read my LGBT post on my blog and maybe leave a comment, I’d appreciate it!

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 4:42pm
  22. which freedom will Russia try to take away from their citizens next?

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 8:22pm
  23. seriously? yet when the democrats held a convention in nc a state which pased prop 1 only weeks before no one boycotted? seems like that one should have got the boycott before we worry about other countries

    Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 9:31pm
  24. Boycotting it will send a clear message of protest against their absurd law.

    Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 12:55am
  25. The Putin Regime is reliant on how he’s perceived by the international community otherwise he would stay in Russia rather than trying to be seen as the international statesman he’s not! While Putin and his regime followers and that of the christian orthodox church use viciously the Russian LGBT community as his easy target for scapegoating, as he did by interning leaders of industry in a cowardly attempt to somehow shake off the corruption of his malicious dictatorship it is important to boycott Russia and everything he so badly wishes to portray as of his success the Winter Olympics and World FIFA Cup is part of his advertising propaganda ploy, incidentally how Russia very spuriously won over the voting members for these successful bids are still under question and shows the importance he and his regime see such propaganda!

    Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 1:17am